In this post, I’ll look at two of the Toronto Maple Leafs’ best wingers of all time to try to assess who was better – Mitch Marner or Wendel Clark.
Maple Leafs’ Player One: Mitch Marner (Right-Winger)
Mitch Marner has played with the Maple Leafs for six seasons. In those six seasons, he’s scored 138 goals and added 317 assists (for 455 points) in 427 games. For the past four seasons, he’s been well over a point-a-game player.
In short, he’s a great young player. After scoring 126 points (44 goals and 82 assists) in 63 OHL games with the London Knights in 2014-15, the Maple Leafs drafted Marner fourth overall in the 2015 NHL Entry Draft. The first player chosen in that draft was none other than the great Connor McDavid.
After he was drafted, Marner played another season with the Knights scoring 39 goals and adding 77 assists (for 116 points) in 57 games.
There’s no doubt that Marner has been an amazing Maple Leafs’ player. Over the past season, he added goal-scoring to his repertoire and became more than just a passing winger. However, for as offensive a player as he is, he’s just as good on defense. He’s become a great two-way player and has the necessary skills to make quick game-changing decisions.
Marner is still young, but in my mind, after six seasons with the team, he’s quickly rising to the top of the pecking order in Maple Leafs’ history as far as wingers go. He already stands 16th in Maple Leafs all-time career scoring.
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Maple Leafs’ Player Two: Wendel Clark (Left Winger)
Few players have ever captured the hearts of Maple Leafs’ fans more quickly than Wendel Clark. His value to his team must be measured far beyond the goals and assists he scored. In the end, he might not have been as talented as Marner; however, his best talent was that he was a class act at a time when the Maple Leafs lacked class.
Clark bled blue for his team. He wore his heart on his sleeve. Everyone – fan, foe, or teammate – knew he cared.
Clark was drafted first overall by the Maple Leafs in 1985. After having made his mark as a young defenseman in junior hockey, when Clark showed up, the team needed help on the left wing. So, Maple Leafs’ head coach Dan Maloney moved him there. Clark became a left-winger and didn’t return to the blue line.
When Clark, who was from Saskatchewan, arrived in Toronto he was an immediate hit. He became a fan favorite. The rest is history. Clark was the kind of physical player the team needed. He controlled games offensively and physically. He became the poster player for the Maple Leafs at a time when few players even wanted to come near Toronto.
At the time Clark came to the team, the atmosphere was circus-like. And the ring leader was Harold Ballard. Clark played well, but he helped make the team more respectable.
King Clancy called Clark the best Maple Leafs rookie in 50 years. He not only was a good player, but he carried the team’s torch proudly. As a result, Clark brought hope to (even then) long-suffering Maple Leafs’ fans.
So, Who’s the Best Player – Marner or Clark?
In 427 games in his six-season career (thus far), Marner has scored 138 goals and added 317 assists (for 455 points). In 608 games in his Maple Leafs’ career, Clark scored 260 goals and added 181 assists (for 441 points).
Clark was the team’s captain from 1991 to 1994. Although he didn’t have the greatest skill set, he brought respect to the team. Marner has not been tasked with such a heavy burden. His job is more on the ice; and, in that respect, as far as high-scoring wingers go, Marner beats Clark to this point.
However, there’s more than scoring involved in measuring the worth of a player. For now, and using the perspective we have in 2022, I believe Clark has been the most impactful player of the two.
The key to this choice is that he was more than an on-ice leader. That might change as Marner plays more career games with the Maple Leafs; however, my call is that Clark was the better Maple Leafs’ winger between the two players.
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